October 22, 2002

Why Has TV Stopped Covering Politics?

Overview

Why does local television news seem to believe that its viewers have no desire for political coverage?

There are various reasons. For one, TV markets don’t tend to overlap with community borders or governmental jurisdictions. Profit demands are intense. But another reason has to do with research conducted by TV consulting firms, which ask questions in a way that preordains the response.

According to a new study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Best Practices in Journalism, with the aid of the Pew Research Center for the People and Press, asking questions differently reveals an overwhelming interest in learning about politics.

The study reveals how the typical questions used by TV consultants are poorly designed. When the questions are better and more specific, viewers overwhelmingly demonstrate a desire for coverage about the substance of government and even politics.

By rephrasing the questions and the coverage of politics, TV news outlets can begin to create substantive campaign reporting that will attract viewers and establish a better-informed citizenry.

For a report on the research by Tom Rosenstiel and Dave Iverson from the Los Angeles Times, read Politics and TV Can Mix.